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Early August of 2019 saw a heavy deployment of troops in the valley without any reason known to its civilians. In a day, on August 5th, the central government announced the abrogation of Article 370, and the splitting of Jammu and Kashmir into two. All communication was blocked, the leaders were put into prison and many people were detained. The BJP government claims to have taken this step to ensure development in the area. On being questioned about the implications of this step on the civilians, they’ve responded multiple times by saying that everything is ‘normal’. However, several reports and accounts suggest that even as of today, the condition of India-occupied Kashmir is far from normal.

Image Source: Sify

Human Rights

Ever since the abrogation of Article 370, mass reports of torture and human rights violations by the authorities have been reported. There are been several instances of electric shocks being given to civilians. People are being beaten up, shot, and tortured by the authorities. “We told them we are innocent. We asked why they were doing this? But they did not listen to us,” one of the victims told to BBC. This crackdown of army and police on the civilians has also led to a mental health catastrophe in Kashmir with almost every other person facing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To add to this, many organizations have been stopped from carrying out any humanitarian works in Kashmir. The international committee of Red Cross, for instance, has been stripped off of its political autonomy because of the abrogation of Article 370.

Communication and internet services have also been shut for more than 150 days, the longest in any democracy. Very recently SMS services were introduced and access to only certain websites was allowed. Till date there is no information from the government as to when the internet shutdown would be completely lifted.

Communication and internet services have also been shut for more than 150 days, the longest in any democracy. Very recently SMS services were introduced and access to only certain websites was allowed. Till date there is no information from the government as to when the internet shutdown would be completely lifted.

Image Source: BBC News

Also read: Kashmir, My Home: In Conversation With Ahmed Dar

Economy

Since August 5, the economy of Kashmir as suffered a loss of more than Rs. 17, 000 crore. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) released a comprehensive repost analysing the sector-wise losses to the economy because of the revoking of Article 370. The concerned body has also stated that this figure is only a “conservative estimate” and that the actual figures might be higher than this. Many people have become jobless because of the internet shutdowns. More than 5,000 people in handicrafts, 30,000 is hotels in restaurants, and 10,000 people in courier services have also been forced to stay unemployed.

The power-play of words in politics is such that it can make the unusual seem usual and ‘normal’. This ‘normalcy’ of Kashmir isn’t just a garb to cover up the reality, but it’s also to normalise state- sponsored brutality against any form of dissent.

Tourism

On November 19, 2019, the Union minister for tourism, Prahlad Singh Patel, stated that there wasn’t any impact on tourism in Jammu and Kashmir after the scrapping of Article 370 in August. In essence, this argument came as being a part of the ‘normalcy’ narrative run by the BJP government. By stating that there wasn’t any effect on Tourism, the minister established that the abrogation of Article 370 did more good than bad. This statement was in response to the questions raised by and MP seeking the status of tourism in Kashmir.

However, an RTI asking factual evidence for this statement revealed that not only did Patel hide facts, but also lied to the public. The RTI also stated that the tourism was badly impacted, and the revenue collected through tourism had also faced a decline of 71%.

Image Source: Aljazeera

Given this analysis of the alleged ‘normalcy’ in Kashmir, one might wonder what role does this narrative play out in Indian politics. The answer to this lies in the power of words in itself. The power-play of words in politics is such that it can make the unusual seem usual and ‘normal’. This ‘normalcy’ of Kashmir isn’t just a garb to cover up the reality, but it’s also to normalise state- sponsored brutality against any form of dissent. When in one interview Amit Shah says, “Visit Kashmir and see, everything is normal,” followed by reports and images from the valley that show internet shutdowns, tortures, hopelessness of the people, and the absence of freedom- one might be forced to believe that the abuse of power by the authority is ‘normal’; that clamping down of dissent with state- sponsored violence is ‘usual’.

Also read: The Often Untold Journeys Of Mental Health Issues In The Kashmir Valley

So the next time when dissent is clamped down upon in Kashmir (or anywhere in India) through state- sponsored violence, it shouldn’t be surprising that the authorities respond with ‘sab changa si’, or ‘everything is normal’, because these narratives are also subliminal tools that convey only one message- that every voice against the government will be met with utmost torture.


Featured Image Source: News Central

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